NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, October 7th, 2019

Seattle City Council votes to oppose I‑976 as Tim Eyman serves up his usual insults

With a lit­tle less than a month to go until Gen­er­al Elec­tion Day 2019, the Seat­tle City Coun­cil took a deci­sive stand against Eyman’s I‑976 Mon­day by pass­ing a res­o­lu­tion denounc­ing the mea­sure and its dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences.

The vote was 7–0 in favor of adop­tion. Coun­cilmem­bers Mike O’Brien and Lore­na González were not present in per­son at the meet­ing.

The res­o­lu­tion reads:

A RESOLUTION oppos­ing Wash­ing­ton Ini­tia­tive Mea­sure 976 (“I‑976”) and urg­ing Seat­tle vot­ers to vote “No” on I‑976 on the Novem­ber 5, 2019, gen­er­al elec­tion bal­lot.

WHEREAS Wash­ing­ton Ini­tia­tive Mea­sure 976 (here­inafter, “I‑976”) would under­mine progress made by The City of Seat­tle, Sound Tran­sit, and the State of Wash­ing­ton in build­ing a more equi­table and sus­tain­able trans­porta­tion sys­tem that responds to the chal­lenges posed by the region’s extra­or­di­nary growth, an ongo­ing cli­mate cri­sis, and past fail­ures to build a mass tran­sit sys­tem that could effi­cient­ly and cost effec­tive­ly serve the needs of Seat­tle in the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry, by elim­i­nat­ing major fund­ing sources for light rail expan­sion, bus ser­vice in Seat­tle, and the pri­ma­ry sources of non-high­way spend­ing at the state lev­el; and

WHEREAS I‑976 would repeal fund­ing author­i­ty for all or sub­stan­tial por­tions of trans­porta­tion ben­e­fit dis­tricts in Seat­tle and 61 oth­er cities across Wash­ing­ton State, a sum of $60 mil­lion per year that is large­ly ded­i­cat­ed to improv­ing safe­ty and main­tain­ing infra­struc­ture and, as in Seat­tle, to reduc­ing crowd­ing and expand­ing access to bus ser­vice; and

WHEREAS I‑976 is intend­ed to elim­i­nate $24 mil­lion per year in Seat­tle Trans­porta­tion Ben­e­fit Dis­trict fund­ing pri­mar­i­ly ded­i­cat­ed to addi­tion­al bus ser­vice for Seat­tle rid­ers that helps alle­vi­ate over­crowd­ing; adds more speed and reli­a­bil­i­ty; and pro­vides more all-day, evening, and week­end bus ser­vice acces­si­ble to more Seat­tle neigh­bor­hoods; and

WHEREAS Seat­tle Tran­sit Ben­e­fit Dis­trict-fund­ed expan­sion of bus ser­vice has allowed Seat­tle to absorb much of its growth via tran­sit rather than addi­tion­al cars, pro­vid­ing 350,000 new annu­al ser­vice hours ‑the equiv­a­lent of 8,000 week­ly bus trips or 79 bus­es run­ning 12 hours per day 365 days a year — capac­i­ty for 106,032 addi­tion­al bus rides per day on bus routes serv­ing Seat­tle, pro­vid­ing ten-minute or bet­ter all-day bus ser­vice with­in a ten-minute walk to 70 per­cent of Seat­tle house­holds (up from 25 per­cent in 2015); and

WHEREAS I‑976 would also elim­i­nate or reduce fund­ing now ded­i­cat­ed to low-income tran­sit access and ORCA pass­es to all Seat­tle pub­lic high school stu­dents, Seat­tle Promise Schol­ars, and income-eli­gi­ble mid­dle school stu­dents; and

WHEREAS I‑976 would also elim­i­nate near­ly $8 mil­lion per year in fund­ing ded­i­cat­ed to City trans­porta­tion pro­grams that include pot­hole repair and neigh­bor­hood street main­te­nance, pro­tect­ed bike lanes, safer pedes­tri­an cross­ings, fre­quent tran­sit cor­ri­dor improve­ments, and the Seat­tle Depart­ment of Transportation’s pro­gram to improve acces­si­bil­i­ty for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties; and

WHEREAS I‑976 is intend­ed to elim­i­nate $20 bil­lion in fund­ing for expan­sion of light rail to West Seat­tle and Bal­lard, along with oth­er ele­ments of the 2016 vot­er-approved Sound Tran­sit 3 mea­sure; and

WHEREAS I‑976 would elim­i­nate the pri­ma­ry sources of state fund­ing for safe­ty improve­ments and non­high­way modes of trans­porta­tion, includ­ing pas­sen­ger rail ser­vice con­nect­ing Seat­tle with Port­land and Van­cou­ver; $1.3 bil­lion in fer­ry ves­sel improve­ments; $15 mil­lion per year in Wash­ing­ton State Patrol safe­ty pro­grams; $50 mil­lion per year in region­al tran­sit mobil­i­ty grants; a mul­ti­tude of freight mobil­i­ty and high­way safe­ty projects; state fund­ing for Safe Routes to Schools and oth­er bike and pedes­tri­an safe­ty invest­ments; and state fund­ing for spe­cial needs tran­sit that serves seniors, vet­er­ans, and peo­ple
with dis­abil­i­ties; and

WHEREAS, pas­sage of I‑976, even if it might even­tu­al­ly be repealed by the courts, could tie up fund­ing for local bus ser­vice, light rail expan­sion, and state pro­grams for sev­er­al years, grind­ing to a halt progress on address­ing Washington’s growth, safe­ty, equi­ty, cli­mate, and traf­fic needs, delay­ing projects and poten­tial­ly cre­at­ing finan­cial tur­moil for Sound Tran­sit with bond mar­kets; and

WHEREAS, Puget Sound res­i­dents have vot­ed to tax them­selves to address their own trans­porta­tion needs by build­ing light rail for traf­fic relief, improv­ing safe­ty and main­te­nance of the exist­ing right-of-way, and expand­ing bus access; and

WHEREAS, after notice in accor­dance with RCW 42.17A.555 and Seat­tle Munic­i­pal Code Sec­tion 2.04.300, per­sons in favor of I‑976 and those opposed to it have been giv­en an equal oppor­tu­ni­ty to share their views in an open pub­lic meet­ing;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF SEATTLE, THE MAYOR CONCURRING, THAT:

Sec­tion 1. The May­or and Seat­tle City Coun­cil urge Seat­tle vot­ers to vote “No” on Wash­ing­ton Ini­tia­tive Mea­sure 976 in the Novem­ber 2019 gen­er­al elec­tion.

Pri­or to pass­ing the res­o­lu­tion, each coun­cilmem­ber offered a few com­ments in sup­port. Coun­cilmem­ber Deb­o­ra Juarez remarked that, in addi­tion to the argu­ments stat­ed in the WHEREAS claus­es, “statewide trans­porta­tion improve­ments have been hard-fought and are the result of great and par­ti­san work in the State and here in our tri-coun­ty region: Pierce, King, and Sno­homish.”

I‑976 would “reverse the will of the peo­ple” for bet­ter tran­sit and bad­ly need­ed alter­na­tives to grid­locked high­ways like Inter­state 5.

Coun­cilmem­ber Lisa Her­bold not­ed that Seat­tle has been one of the few cities in the nation where tran­sit use has been on the upswing recent­ly, spurned by Sound Tran­sit and King Coun­ty Metro ser­vice expan­sion and improve­ment.

Yet, under I‑976, Seat­tle will lose approx­i­mate­ly 175,000 hours of bus ser­vice in 2020. That’s half of the ser­vice fund­ed by the vot­er-approved Seat­tle Trans­porta­tion Ben­e­fit Dis­trict. One-third of water taxi ser­vice is fund­ed through the trans­porta­tion ben­e­fit dis­trict, so that will be in jeop­ardy too.

Coun­cilmem­ber Kshama Sawant argued that “it would make exist­ing mea­sures more regres­sive.” She called for the pas­sage of a high-earn­ers income tax at the city lev­el to fund Seat­tle’s pub­lic ser­vices more equi­tably.

Coun­cilmem­ber Sal­ly Bagshaw thanked the Leg­is­la­ture for pass­ing trans­porta­tion fund­ing bills that have raised mon­ey for need­ed projects. Specif­i­cal­ly, she men­tioned work­ing with State Sen­a­tor Cur­tis King of East­ern Wash­ing­ton to secure progress for com­mu­ni­ties on both sides of the Cas­cades.

Coun­cilmem­ber Abel Pacheco empha­sized the need for trans­porta­tion fund­ing to com­ply with Vision 2050. He also humor­ous­ly called I‑976 “malarkey”.

Coun­cilmem­ber Tere­sa Mosque­da not­ed that that the pub­lic ser­vices we rely on to make sure our econ­o­my func­tions have to be fund­ed some­how. Busi­ness­es can’t get their goods to mar­ket and peo­ple can’t get where they need to go if our trans­porta­tion sys­tem is in dis­re­pair.

Then the fun part came: Tim Eyman spoke in defense of Ini­tia­tive 976, ram­bling in front of City Coun­cil for sev­er­al min­utes while lam­bast­ing coun­cilmem­bers for hav­ing the audac­i­ty to offer peo­ple guid­ance on how to vote. Many activists held up NO on I‑976 signs behind Tim as he spoke, cre­at­ing a the­atri­cal atmos­phere.

Tim Eyman surrounded by NO on I-976 signs

Tim Eyman speaks as oppo­nents of Ini­tia­tive 976 hold up signs oppos­ing his scheme to wipe out bil­lions in bipar­ti­san, vot­er-approved trans­porta­tion invest­ments (Seat­tle Chan­nel)

Matthew Lang of the Tran­sit Rid­ers Union — who tes­ti­fied in oppo­si­tion to I‑976 along­side our founder ear­li­er this win­ter — deliv­ered a rejoin­der for the NO camp.

He re-empha­sized the thou­sands of good pay­ing, fam­i­ly wage jobs in the build­ing trades could be lost with the delay or can­cel­la­tion of essen­tial projects.

He also stressed the bus ser­vice in rur­al coun­ties that could be com­plete­ly gut­ted.

And he point­ed out that vehi­cle fees help ensure that Seat­tle, King Coun­ty, and oth­er juris­dic­tions can offer low fare pro­grams like ORCA LIFT to peo­ple on low or lim­it­ed incomes. Peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, high school stu­dents, and the elder­ly would all be affect­ed by the dis­con­tin­u­a­tion of ORCA LIFT.

Access to trans­porta­tion is one of the biggest mark­ers of priv­i­lege in this coun­try, Lang told the coun­cil. If you don’t have trans­porta­tion, you can’t get to work or around the city. He’s absolute­ly cor­rect. All Wash­ing­to­ni­ans deserve free­dom of mobil­i­ty. That’s why NPI is work­ing hard to defeat this destruc­tive mea­sure.

Join us in vot­ing NO on Tim Eyman’s I‑976 by Novem­ber 5th, 2019.

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